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Cablegate: The Lost Boys of Bissau

VZCZCXRO3777
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #2612/01 3031010
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 301010Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6743
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DAKAR 002612

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR G/TIP, DRL/AE, AF/RSA, AF/W AND CA/OCS/CI
PARIS FOR POL - D'ELIA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM KCRM KOCI KFRD PU SG
SUBJECT: THE LOST BOYS OF BISSAU

REF: A. DAKAR 528
B. DAKAR 325

SUMMARY
-------
1. (U) During a recent adoption research trip to Guinea-Bissau,
several contacts reported that young boys continue to be victims of
child trafficking schemes. Children continue to be trafficked from
Bissau to Senegal through networks of religious leaders (marabouts)
and the GOGB has limited resources to combat this activity. Both
the GOGB and NGOs struggle to protect and re-integrate at-risk
children, but limited resources and a weak judicial system frustrate
their efforts to provide adequate protection. END SUMMARY.

THREATS TO FAMILY STABILITY
---------------------------
2. (U) High rates of fertility and maternal mortality, coupled with
low life expectancy, result in a tragically large number of children
in Guinea-Bissau whose mothers have died. According to local
customs, when a mother dies, the father is not responsible for his
children's care; instead they are given to a grandmother or an aunt.
When these women cannot provide adequate care, they seek one of
three options. It appears the most common option is to send boys,
as young as six, to wander the streets of Bissau begging or selling
phone cards and other small items as they seek food for the day
before they return home or to seek shelter with other adolescents.
As these boys get older, they increasingly resort to petty crime and
gangs for protection and food. Second, some Muslim families send
boys to a religious leader, known as a marabout, where they will
learn the Koran and how to be a good Muslim. Finally, a small
numbe of families will take the youngest children to on of two
centers that care for abandoned children However, these two
centers, Casa Emanuel Orphange and SOS Village, tend to favor
younger childrn and some perceive they only want the children tht
are considered easy to care for.

GO TO THE ARABOUT, YOUNG MAN
-----------------------------
3. (U) While many Marabouts provide the expectedspiritual guidance
and training to their talibes(students), in recent years GOGB
officials have iscovered marabout trafficking groups of up to 20
young boys across the border into Senegal, where they are forced to
beg in Dakar or other cities and raise money for their marabouts
(see Ref A). Initially, the marabouts crossed with the boys at the
official border into Senegal, but recent training of border guards
has led to increased scrutiny of men crossing with groups of young
boys. Consequently, marabouts have begun to sneak into Senegal's
Casamance region through the lush forests that dominate the border.

4. (U) When interventions are successful in stopping child
trafficking, Associacao da Mulher e Crianca or Association for Women
and Children (AMIC), an NGO active in Guinea-Bissau, attempts to
reintegrate children into their families and society. The children
they work with are almost exclusively boys and young men between the
ages of 8 and 25 from Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Mali as well as
Guinea-Bissau. AMIC reports that attempts to reunite these children
with their families are often frustrated because many children do
not remember the name of their village or have strong ties to their
own families. Unfortunately, even when reunification does occur,
the boys are often sent to a marabout again because the family still
cannot care for them. Neither AMIC nor the GOGB has resources to
house or arrange formal foster care for these children. While AMIC
attempts to find the boys' families, they arrange informal foster
care through their own local contacts. AMIC currently tracks over
40 boys that have been reunited with their families to ensure they
are in school and receiving proper care, but the growing number of
children makes such efforts increasingly difficult.

CHILD TRAFFICKING A GROWING PROBLEM
-----------------------------------
5. (U) While ConOff was in Guinea-Bissau to research international
adoptions, every contact wanted to discuss the growing issue of
child trafficking and the vulnerable status of children in Bissau.
The Child Protection Office in the Bissau Police Department is very
concerned about the growing number of boys engaging in petty crime
and forming gangs. They estimate at least 1,000 children are on the
street without any place to go. They do not have any facilities to
house juveniles separately from adults, and even when they detect
child abuse, they do not have a facility or resources to move
children to a safe place. The Secretary of State for Public Order
in the Ministry of the Interior expressed his appreciation for the
USG's concern for children's issues in Bissau and asked for
additional USG attention and assistance to the issue of child
trafficking, stressing the importance the current Bissau-Guinean
government gives the issue.

6. (SBU) The UNICEF Country Representative told ConOff that
President Vieira had a very emotional reaction and was visibly
disturbed when he was informed of the extent of child trafficking

DAKAR 00002612 002 OF 002


along the border with Senegal. UNICEF is conducting a field study
to evaluate the problem, and it has a weekly working group meeting
with the Government and NGOs to address children's issues. However,
he also said the World Bank has resources available for orphans and
vulnerable children which no one in Bissau is using.

POTENTIAL FOR ADOPTION FRAUD
----------------------------
7. (SBU) To date, very few foreigners, mostly Spanish and
Portuguese, have adopted orphans from Guinea-Bissau. Most of the
orphans were staying at the Casa Emanuel Orphanage, which is run by
two Costa Rican and one Brazilian missionaries. According to
orphanage officials, the adopted children were genuine orphans.
ConOff reviewed Casa Emanuel's screening procedures, and they appear
to limit the potential for adoption fraud.

8. (SBU) However, there is considerable potential for baby and
child-selling schemes if an adoption agency or other orphanages open
with ill-intentioned directors. The weak judiciary, large number of
abandoned and vulnerable children, and overwhelming poverty create
an environment conducive to child exploitation. ConOff spoke to one
adoption lawyer who mistook her for a potential client and openly
admitted that he pays bribes to GOGB officials when processing
international adoptions. He bragged that the judge was an old
friend from school who signed off on anything as long as all the
papers were submitted, usually within two weeks.

COMMENT
-------
9. (SBU) Child trafficking networks in Guinea-Bissau are changing
tactics to avoid increasing GOGB attention, further complicating
efforts to measure and stop the problem. Resources are limited and
the various organizations working on child trafficking are not
integrating their efforts. The combination of large numbers of
vulnerable children, weak laws and government institutions, and wide
spread corruption, has resulted in large numbers of children being
trafficked to Senegal and could lead to adoption fraud if
organizations learn there is money to be made in facilitating
international adoptions. Post has not yet received an approval or
rejection of the anti-trafficking in persons proposal to G/TIP (Ref
B), but we continue to believe that project is the best way to
address this growing problem. END COMMENT.

10. (U) Visit Embassy Dakar's classified website at
http://www.state.sgov/gov/p/af/dakar/.

JACOBS

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